The Ohio to Erie bike trail is getting closer to downtown London, after Madison County commissioners approved a grant application Monday to purchase a plot of land to expand the bike path.
Currently, Robert’s Pass trail, which comes from Columbus, is disconnected for a more than a mile in London from the Prairie Grass trail, which continues west into Clark County.
The commissioners and the Friends of the Madison County Parks and Trails are looking at a five-acre plot near the intersection of Maple and Center streets. The land extends to the intersection of Walnut and Center streets.
The undeveloped triangular-shaped piece of land is owned by Kelly Manns, who agreed to sell the land for about $131,800. It’s a discount of about $30,700 from the fair market value of more than $162,500.
To pay for the land, Julia Cumming, program administrator for the Madison Soil and Water Conservation District, is applying for the Clean Ohio Trail Grant through Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It can pay for up to 75 percent of the cost, based on the fair market value.
Should the entire grant be awarded to Madison County, it would cover about $121,900. If everything goes smoothly with the grant and Mann’s write-off on the purchase price, it would cost the county $10,000.
There is a chance the grant could be a bit lower, however. Cumming said the land has some awkward features that ODNR might consider unnecessary for the expansion of the trail, such as a ditch and a patch of trees.
Cumming said its part of a statewide effort to close the gaps through the trails. Currently, the gap has bikers riding on Center Street.
“Many people decide to turn back from there,” she said.
She’s convinced traffic through London will increase.
“Business aren’t benefiting now,” she said. “It will really change if we can close the gap.”
It’s a sentiment Wayne Roberts, executive director of Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails, shares.
“We really want to eliminate the time it takes to get back on the trail,” he said. “I think it could add value to the area and could be good for businesses in downtown London, where people might decide to take a break for coffee, get a doughnut, things like that.”
Robert’s hope is that this land purchase would be the first of many to link the two bike trails together and run through London. He’s hoping for donations and support for the future.
“We want to convince the local entrepreneurs to get on board for more expansions,” he said.
Cumming said she’ll be adamant on persuading the agency why the rest of the land is needed and the benefits it could give to the bike trails, especially since it’s unlikely to convince the land owner to just sell a portion of the property, which would be bisected by the trail.
“I think it’s a solid case. I think it’s asking for what this grant is meant to do,” she said. “But ODNR can decrease based on their own determination.”
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.